This statement comes with a caveat. I have only seen the Friars with my own eyes twice so far – in the Mal Brown scrimmage and in this exhibition game. I did not see the games in Italy, I have not been to the daily practices or scrimmages. I only have two samples from which to judge.
That said, some of the things that bothered me in the Mal Brown scrimmage, bothered me again against Carleton. Usually, one time seeing a team, and I can peg what kind of season lies ahead. I usually can get a pretty quick handle on what we have or what we lack. Right now, I have no idea.
I do know a few things that I wasn't sure of prior to these two exhibitions. For one, the man to man defense is solid. The Friars came out in man and stayed in man for the entire Carleton game, throwing in several full and three quarter court presses along the way, that gave the Ravens problems. Jeff Xavier is a tenacious man defender and may end up being the best on the ball defender that PC has had since John Linehan.
In addition, several other Friars have clearly turned up the heat in their defensive play. Alex Kellogg is a revelation in this aspect, and Brian McKenzie, Dwain Williams, Weyinmi Efejuku and Geoff McDermott all also seemed to display a greater willingness to dig down in man defense.
That said, here's what I don't know. Although Tim Welsh called PC's first half, half-court defense "excellent", Carleton scored 35 points on 47% shooting. The smallish Ravens exploited the middle down low against the Friars and were able to catch the ball on the low blocks repeatedly. Will PC be able to keep bigger teams from having their way on the inside?
PC's bigs are a concern. Randall Hanke missed the game with a deep thigh bruise, but even when he plays, he's more noted for his offensive contributions than his defensive prowess. Jonathan Kale hustles, but is undersized and doesn't elevate well. Ray Hall plays smaller than he is because he doesn't elevate well either, and poor play by Hall in a stretch in the first half anchored him to the bench until there was 4:41 remaining in the game.
The only PC bigs that elevate well are McDermott, who played very well, especially in the second half, and freshman Jamine Peterson. The problem with Peterson is that he has the game of a 6'9 power forward, wrapped in a 6'5 body. He's ineffective away from the basket, and undersized under the hoop. Still, he shows a great nose for the ball, and is a tough competitor.
The frontcourt problems will manifest themselves when the Friars play against bigger, more athletic frontcourts. Rebounding and defending inside will be difficult for this group.
What the Friars do have going for them is a strong cadre of backcourt shooters. Even without Sharaud Curry, PC has a solid group of long range snipers. Williams is deadly, Xavier flashed his jumper, McKenzie's shot looks improved and Efejuku was a first half highlight film. The guards handled the ball well, there was decent ball movement, and sloppy turnovers were kept to a minimum.
Marshon Brooks saw his first action, and he looked comfortable handling the ball, although he was picked once, and he looked a step slow on defense (possibly because of his recent ankle injury), leading to several on the ball fouls that resulted in his fouling out.
The Ravens, at times, victimized PC's defense when players would leave their man to help down low. Several times, Carleton players, particularly Ryan Bell (18 points) and Aaron Doornekamp (25 points) were left all alone at the three point line for inside-out passes and knocked down threes. This was something that plagued PC last season, and the Friars have to be disciplined in their man to man defense not to leave three point marksmen alone… ever. The smaller Ravens also proved to be bothersome on the glass for the Friars.
So the questions nag… will PC be able to stop teams inside? Will the Friars be able to score themselves inside? Will the frontcourt box out well enough to make up for their lack of athleticism in rebounding? Will the need to help out the bigs inside cause the guards to leave their men alone on the perimeter?
I have no idea. All I know is that we'll find out the answers to these questions when the games start for real, in Puerto Rico, on November 14. Until then, it'll be practice, practice, practice for this group of Friars.
NOTES: PC will take to the court Sunday at Alumni Hall in a closed scrimmage against Hofstra. No fans or media are allowed in the gym, and no details can be given out… McDermott played well, leading the way with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. He posted up smaller players several times and cleaned up on the O-glass… Efejuku had 14 points and 6 assists and hit a couple of rainbow threes, while also flashing his explosive first step… Welsh kept his starters in for the first six minutes of the second half, and PC extended a 47-35 lead to 61-42… No Friar played 30 minutes and Kale chipped in with 12 points and 9 boards…
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